News Irish News

Friday 22 September 2017

No tests for EU doctors moving here as patient complaints rise

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

DOCTORS from other EU countries who want to register and work in Ireland are not subject to any test of their medical skills, the Irish Independent has learned.

The revelation comes as the Medical Council, which regulates the profession here, reported 361 complaints against doctors last year -- a rise of 22pc compared with 2009.

On Tuesday it emerged that Romanian junior doctor Asia Ndaga (31), who was recruited to work in Letterkenny General Hospital last July, was not able to take a patient's pulse.

Medical Council president Professor Kieran Murphy last night said he would not comment on a specific case.

However, he confirmed that because of freedom of movement legislation, doctors from EU states can register to work in another EU country as long as they provide evidence of their qualifications and disciplinary record.

He said the council, along with most of its European counterparts, is now urging the European Commission to exempt doctors from this rule and allow for a test of their clinical skills.

New registration rules will come into effect for junior doctors from outside the EU who want to register to work in Irish hospitals.

This is expected to result in the arrival of a large group of medics from India and Pakistan to ease the shortage of medics in several hospitals.

However, there are fears this will make it easier for unfit doctors to slip through the net.

But Prof Murphy insisted these doctors must pass a "robust" clinical exam to test them on their competence in their own area of speciality.

They will each be registered to work only in their field and will be supervised by a senior consultant for two years in the hospital that has offered them a job.

But he warned: "Doctors from outside the EU are more likely to have complaints made about them proceed to a full sworn inquiry. The complaint is likely to be more serious."

The majority of complaints do not go on to a full fitness to practise inquiry.

There were 54 inquiries last year, compared with 31 in 2009 and 29 in 2008.

Standards

The biggest category of complaint (160) related to professional standards and breaches of ethics.

Others included inadequate treatment (86); rudeness and failure to communicate (30); alcohol and drug abuse (10); and failure to attend to a patient (12).

A greater proportion of complaints were made against doctors aged 45-65 years, as well as against those who qualified in an Irish medical school.

Doctors over 65 years made up 7pc of doctors on the register but accounted for 15pc of inquiries.

GPs, obstetricians, gynaecologists, psychiatrists and surgeons are the most likely to be complained about.

Two doctors were struck off last year.

Meanwhile, Dr Ndaga, who was found guilty of poor professional performance, was not at her last known address in Coleraine in Derry yesterday.

A spokesman for Letterkenny Hospital refused to say why it did not interview her or check her references before her employment.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News